John Horn

Max Pizarro's interview with David Friedland

Max Pizarro's interview with David Friedland
Credit: N.J. State Library Photo
Thomas Kean and David Friedland, both Assemblymen, in 1971.

Assembly Minority Leader David Friedland said he entered Mayor John V. Kenny's hospital room at Jersey City Medical Center and handed him the kris knife he had collected on a recent honeymoon excursion to Nepal.

"Mayor, I want your assurance that you'll get the votes to make Assemblyman Tom Kean the Speaker of the Assembly," said Friedland, a flamboyant Hudson County labor attorney who was already politically radioactive as someone "entirely too comfortable with organized crime," in the words of U.S. Attorney William Brennan.

Sure, sure, said Kenny, but what's with the knife?

Friedland told Kenny about climbers in Katmandu who link themselves together by a rope and jump one by one over treacherous mountain chasms. The first man in each chain who jumps is vulnerable because the others behind him outweigh him and can jerk the rope back, knocking him into the chasm.

If that happens, and he survives, it is understood, according to folklore, that the man will seek revenge with the kris knife and disembowel those climbers who double-crossed him.

"I'm going to jump across that crevice first," Friedland told Kenny. "Just make sure your guys follow me."

He left the knife with Kenny. It was a gift.

And a symbol.

For Friedland had other ways of disemboweling Kenny politically if it came to that, if the mayor of Hudson County's biggest city didn't deliver at least four Assembly votes he said he could as part of a deal sprung by Friedland when his fellow Democrats, jittery over his reputation, balked at making him speaker and instead lined up behind Assemblyman S. Howard Woodson (D-Trenton).

Democrats had won a narrow 40-39 majority in the 1971 mid-term election, and were looking to reclaim leadership in the lower house. Powerful Assemblyman John Horn (D-Camden) forged an alliance with Woodson to block Friedland, who was in line for the speaker's chair.

Denied the top Assembly post by his own party, Friedland planned to back Kean, a rising star from Essex County. In exchange, Friedland wanted 50% control of committee chairmanships, 50% control of the money in the lower house, a conference committee that had the power to remove any bill from committee, and a generous North Jersey aid package for Essex and Hudson counties.

He had four votes - including his own - without Kenny. Kenny's contribution would give him a total of seven to add to the Republicans' 39, which would propel Kean well past Woodson for the Speakership.

"On the night before the vote, I was at the governor's mansion playing 'Waltzing Matilda' on the piano," Friedland told "It turned out to be prophetic, because that was the theme song for a movie at the time where the planet was destroyed by atomic energy."

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Ernest Schuck, former Assemblyman, dies

Former Assemblyman Ernest Schuck, a Camden County Democrat who served four terms in the State Assembly, passed away on Saturday.  He was 80.

Schuck was elected to the Assembly in 1973, representing the old fifth district.  He took the seat of Assembly Minority Leader John Horn, who was running for the Senate, and ran on a ticket with Assemblyman Jim Florio.  Schuck gave up his Assembly seat to run for State Senator in 1981, but lost the Democratic primary to Walter Rand; they were both seeking the seat of incumbent Angelo Errichetti, who was forced to forfeit is Senate seat and his position as Mayor of Camden following his criminal conviction in the Abscam scandal.

Schuck served as Mayor of Barrington from 1968 to 1973.

A viewing will be held on Tuesday from 6:30-9:30 PM and on Wednesday from 8:30-9:30 AM at the Popiolek Funeral Home in Barrington.  A Mass will be celebrated at 10AM on Wednesday at St. Francis de Sales Church in Barrington.


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Through parts of four decades, ten districts that have never flipped

Through parts of four decades, ten districts that have never flipped
Republicans have never won in the 20th district, one of districts in the state that have never flipped parties. State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) won 57% in the GOP landslide year of 1991, the worst general election showing of his 32-year political career.

There was a redistricting frenzy after the U.S. Supreme Court's Reynolds v. Sims one man, one vote ruling of 1964.  The Legislature had a new map for the 1965 election, followed by additional maps in 1967, 1969, 1971, and 1973.  It wasn't until 1973 that New Jersey went to forty districts, each with one Senate seat and two Assembly seats.  Since that map, about three-quarters of the districts have elected legislators from both parties. 

‘The current 5th District turned Democrat in 1973 after Republican State Senator Frank Italiano of Camden gave up the seat to accept a Judgeship. Italiano, who never lost an election over several terms as a City Commissioner and two terms as Senator, was the last Republican to win any office in Camden or the District. He defeated then-Camden Mayor Al Pierce in a stunning upset victory in the 1967 Senate race and then won reelection in 1969.

Republicans have held the Somerset County-based 16th district, although future Commissioner of Human Services Tim Carden nearly won an Assembly seat in 1977, even though State Sen. Raymond Bateman was at the top of the ticket as the GOP candidate for Governor.

Democrats have never lost the Middlesex-based 17th, which was dominated by the father and son John Lynch team despite the younger Lynch's near-loss to Edward Tiller in 1991.  The district was briefly represented by a Republican when Assemblywoman Angela Perun switched parties after Democrats dropped her from their ticket in 1985.  As a Republican, she lost by just a few hundred votes to the Mayor of Piscataway, Bob Smith.

In 1991, Republicans almost won an Assembly seat in the Union County-based 20th, when Richard Hunt came within 900 votes of beating the venerable Thomas Dunn, the seven-term Mayor of Elizabeth and former State Senator.  Raymond Lesniak won a fourth term with 57% of the vote, the lowest general election percentage of his thirty year political career.

Three Essex County districts have never elected Republicans: the ones now represented by Richard Codey, Ronald Rice and Teresa Ruiz.  Another Essex district, won by Democrats in 1973 when Nutley Mayor Carmen Orechio ousted Republican State Sen. Michael Giuliano, regularly elected Democrats and Republicans to the Assembly until it was eliminated in 1991.  The seat was shifted to Ocean and Burlington counties, and now the 30th only elects Republicans.

While Republicans held four Hudson County Assembly seats (Districts 32 and 33) from 1986 to 1988 - their first legislative victory since 1920 - Democrats have never lost the 31st.  Their closest call came in 1991, when Bret Schundler won 42% against Democratic State Sen. Edward O'Connor.  Schundler was elected Mayor the following year in a non-partisan race. 

In Bergen County, Democrats have kept a firm grip on the 37th since Matthew Feldman ousted Republican State Sen. Joseph Woodcock in 1973.  And the Republicans have never lost in the 40th, which now includes parts of Passaic and Essex counties.

Under the current map drawn in 2001, districts 1, 2, 4, 7, 12, 14, 36, and 38 have been won by at least one Democrat and one Republican. 

Over the years, there have been some surprise winners - usually in a landslide year like 1973, 1985 or 1991.  A partial list includes:

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The Back Room

Passaic County Building and Construction Trades Council backs Sayegh in Paterson Mayor's race

The Passaic County Building and Construction Trades Council today endorsed Andre Sayegh for Mayor citing his effective leadership, efforts to combat crime, and promotion of business and overall economic development in the City of Paterson.

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: April 18, 2014

Fulop endorses Smith in Bayonne mayoral raceBAYONNE - Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop parachuted into the Bayonne mayoral race on Thursday night by endorsing incumbent Mayor Mark Smith."It is a pleasure to be with you here, Mark," said Fulop to a crowd of more than 125 supporters at a...


The future of NJ Politics should not be politicians investigating politicians

By JON BRAMNICK Voices around the country agree with our concern that "bipartisan committee led by John Wisniewski is partisan." Below are observers who agree Wisneiwski's committee is not bipartisan: Chuck Todd, NBC News: "Democrats made a mistake... Read More >


(4-16-14) New Jersey Vote By Mail Law - The voter turnout for New Jersey’s November gubernatorial election was the lowest since the days of prohibition, coming... more »
When it comes to profiling Christie, facts are for wussies (4/10/14) - As the national media stories on our Guv pile up, expect more blunders about the Garden State.... more »
This week I begin a series called Dispatches from Somewhere Else. Based on my on-going experiences as an everyman in New Jersey politics, these Dispatches review the hollowness of... more »
Watching Governor Chris Christie's shocking BridgeGate implosion, it's easy to forget the time when he truly seemed unstoppable.  Blessed with incredible political gifts and a Jersey bluster to match,... more »

Quote of the Day

Quote of the day

"This is my first Mark Smith event. There have been a lot of changes in Hudson County over the last year and a half, and the most important change that has happened is that there really is unity. For the first time, we really are working together. Despite political differences. Mark and I have worked very hard to repair that. I'm really happy to be here in support of him, because I recognize that when you work together, politics becomes secondary and you really have time to focus on government, which is the most important thing." - Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop



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